Youngbin groggily stumbled out of his room at six am one Friday morning to answer the incessant knocking on their apartment door. Opening the door revealed a perfectly put together Rowoon holding a paper bag from the new bakery down the street. Youngbin groaned and just turned around to return to his comfortable bed and warm boyfriend, leaving their morning visitor standing in the hallway. Rowoon was unbothered, being friends with Youngbin for 6 years had its benefits. One of those was the unquestioned arrival at ungodly hours of the day with random orders of food. He closed the door quietly behind him and took his shoes and jacket off leaving them in the hall before making his way into the apartment. It was messy, but that was understandable when you had a couple with full-time jobs and two final year university students living together in a relatively small space. Rowoon took the bread and pastries out of the bag and laid them out on plates before putting on the kettle for tea. When all was done he went towards the other bedroom in the apartment to find the real reason he was here.
He slowly opened the door and peered into the semi-darkness. Relieved to find only one bed occupied, Rowoon made his way over to the far wall and sat down beside the body curled up under the covers. There was no way he was still sleeping, Chani once woke up at the sound of Hwiyoung closing his laptop, but he continued to pretend anyway. As if Rowoon would ever actually fall for that. He waited for two minutes to see if the younger would turn around and face him, but once that time elapsed Rowoon took action. He pulled the covers off him and shook his shoulder gently. When he still refused to get up Rowoon shook him a little harder and called his name.
"Chani, I know you're not asleep. Come on, if you don't get up now you'll be late."
"I can sleep for another 37 minutes exactly before I have to get up and go."
"If you do that you won't get to eat and you'll have to rush to class."
"Chani - I bought pastries from the new bakery. You said you wanted to try them right?"
"I did, but not right now."
"They won't taste as good later. I got them right as the bakery opened, they were just out of the oven."
"You didn't have to do that."
"I know but I -"
"Seriously Rowoon, thanks but no thanks. I am going to sleep for another 34 minutes and then I'll go to my class."
"Alright, but at least bring one of the pastries with you to eat on the way?"
Rowoon sighed but knew he wasn't going to get anything better. He ruffled Chani's hair softly before pulling the covers back up over him and tucking him in. Saying goodbye to which he merely received a grunt in reply, he made his way out of the room. Leaving a note for Youngbin on the ever-present sticky pad on the fridge, Rowoon put back on his shoes and jacket and left the apartment. One of these days he was sure that Chani would get up when he came and let him bring him to class, just not today though. He caught the next bus into the city and started work at seven am, the same time he always started on Fridays - an hour before he needed to be there.
Jaeyoon sighed when he saw who was approaching his counter. He considered asking someone to take over for him using the excuse of needing a bathroom break, but it was too late. Rowoon greeted him brightly as he started unloading his groceries onto the conveyer belt and behind him, Chani nodded politely. The contrast between their basket contents would be funny if Jaeyoon wasn't the one who had to ring them up. Rowoon, being the responsible, self-sufficient adult he was, had plenty of fresh vegetables, meat and other ingredients for cooking healthy, fulfilling meals. Chani, on the other hand, had a collection of instant ramen cups, frozen pizzas, snack bars and energy drinks - a typical students diet. They chatted amicably as Jaeyoon scanned through all of Rowoon's food and he packed them away neatly, but before he could cash off at the end the usual drama started again.
"Jaeyoon, please put Chani's items through on mine too."
"I can pay for my own food."
"Of course you can, but I want to get them for you."
"It's fine Rowoon, there isn't even that much."
"Exactly, it's only a few things. I have no problem buying them."
"It would be quicker if you just accept I'm not going to let you buy my groceries."
"Chani, come on -"
"Jaeyoon, would you please finish Rowoon's transaction?"
The tallest of the three pouted but Chani refused to yield. Eventually, Rowoon nodded once and Jaeyoon finished off and let him pay for his groceries by card. Jaeyoon quickly scanned through the youngest's purchases and watched as he shoved them all into his backpack. He paid with a handful of notes and thanked him when they were finished. They both waved to Jaeyoon as they turned to leave and the cashier breathed a sigh of relief. Rowoon was trying to placate the younger as they walked away, but Chani just pulled his hood up and walked faster ahead. It was always the same.
Taeyang loved his part-time job, they were considerate of his university classes and always treated him so nicely. There was only one thing he disliked about the coffee shop he worked in, and that was the inevitable drama that always occurred between two certain customers. Rowoon walked in at his usual time on Tuesdays and smiled brightly at all the staff. It was pretty quiet at two pm, the lunch rush was over and the after school crowd had not yet arrived. He always ordered the same thing; a tall mocha with extra chocolate, and also paid for a double shot americano. Rowoon sat at the cute table by the window and read a book as he drank his sit-in coffee, often his face in the store was enough to draw in giggling girls passing by. Twenty minutes after he sat down, another usual customer came in. This was the part Taeyang dreaded, and he was all alone at the till.
"What can I get for you today Chani?"
"Shouldn't you know my order by now Taeyang?"
"One double shot americano coming up."
"You don't mind taking the payment in small change, do you? It's all I have right now."
"It's been paid for already."
"Right - can I please get it to go?"
Taeyang turned to the machine and made Chani's coffee as quickly as he could. He always put a sprinkle of sugar in it before returning it to him, knowing that the younger never put it in himself but disliked the overly bitter taste. Chani was pointedly refusing to look to where Rowoon was sitting, instead he feigned interest in the new menu above the counter.
"One double shot americano, to go."
"Thanks Taeyang. Hey, who did the coffee-board art?"
"Not sure, it's always just there when I come in. Inseong is going crazy trying to figure it out, it's pretty funny."
Chani chuckled and said his thanks again before taking a deep breath and turning around. He marched over to Rowoon who was watching him with a pleasant smile on his face. After placing a handful of coins on the table, which came to the exact amount of his coffee, he immediately spun and walked out of the shop, ignoring Rowoon's calls for him. Taeyang pretended to be busy cleaning the coffee machine when Rowoon called his goodbyes a few minutes later, and when he went to clear the table the change sat untouched - as usual.
Juho hated it when Chani was sick. The younger boy never showed any indication that he was feeling marginally unwell, it was only when he was completely overrun with a cold or vomiting bug that he showed weakness. At least, he showed it to him. Juho treated Chani like his little brother, and not just because he was actually related to his boyfriend, and so when he was ill he would timidly knock on Juho's bedroom door and ask for help. They always bundled him up in blankets and fed him homemade chicken soup, water and medicine until he had flushed it out of his system. The worst part about Chani being sick, was when their other friends found out he was sick - specifically when Rowoon found out. Juho tried bargaining and Youngbin tried ordering him out but Rowoon always managed to make his way into their apartment with herbal remedies and enough food to feed an army. Despite being willing to show his weakness to Juho and Youngbin, he refused to do so with Rowoon.
"I found this tea recipe online, it's supposed to help cure all sorts of illnesses."
"'m not sick Rowoon."
"Oh please, you sound like you're speaking through a pillow with how congested you are. Please just try the tea?"
"Don't need it, 'm fine. You can go away now."
"I won't be going anywhere until you're feeling better."
"Juho makes me feel better, tell him to come over here and then you can leave."
"Rowoon I just want to sleep, I don't need any tea."
"Well I'm leaving the pot in the kitchen anyway. You should drink it, it will help you get better."
Chani just pulled the blanket he had over his head and turned so he was facing the back of the couch and not looking at Rowoon. The taller patted his shoulder and got up from his crouched position and went into the kitchen. He left instructions on how to reheat the tea and the dose that was recommended for Chani before texting Juho to say that Chani wanted him. Rowoon waited until Juho came into the living room and sat with Chani on the couch before saying goodbye and heading out. It would be another day or two before the younger was back to himself. Rowoon decided he would just have to come back tomorrow and make sure he had drunk some of the tea.
Hwiyoung and Chani had been roommates since their first year in university after being paired together by random lottery. They had lived in five different apartments in their four years, their current residence was sharing with Chani's cousin and his boyfriend. Not only were they roommates and best friends, but they were also the most notorious drinkers in their respective courses. Each of them could easily outdrink the rest of the group on a night out and not even seem tipsy. So for Chani to be flat out lying on the floor under the table in their booth completely drunk was almost unheard of occurrence. But unfortunately, that's what Hwiyoung was contending with on a random Saturday night. He hadn't even seen Chani drinking that much, but he must have had something different than usual. Bin and Chanwoo tried to help get him back up onto the seats of the booth but he was doing his best impression of a sack of bricks. Hwiyoung thanked them for trying and waved them off as they made their way onto the dance floor. He sighed and decided drastic measures were needed, and just hoped Chani wouldn't hate him when he came to. So he made a phone call.
"Hwiyoung? Is everything alright?"
"Hi Rowoon. I was wondering if you're busy tonight?"
"Well no not particularly. It's after twelve though, surely you're not inviting me out with you, are you? I've just taken my makeup off."
"No no, it's not that. It's just - it's Chani."
"What happened? Is he alright? Where are you guys?"
"We're at Ace of Angels, I don't know what's wrong. He usually holds his alcohol really well but, he's just completely drunk."
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes, do you think you can get him outside?"
"I can try but I won't guarantee it. If I can't we're in one of the booths beside the dancefloor."
"I'll see you shortly, alright?"
"Yeah, thanks Rowoon."
Chani stirred a little on the floor but made no attempt to right himself. Hwiyoung shook his head in exasperation and made an attempt at getting his friend off the floor and outside. He managed to get him up and lying on the couch instead, but no further. Not wanting Rowoon to have to come inside the club he rushed off and grabbed one of the bouncers he recognised and asked for his help. Between him and Minhyuk, they managed to get Chani over to the door and sat him down on one of the waiting benches. A bartender brought them a glass of water and Hwiyoung forced Chani to drink half of it. Rowoon arrived as Chani started to stir from his stupour and immediately crouched down and took the younger's face in his hands.
"Chani - can you hear me? Nod once for yes."
"I cann taaalk Rowoooon~"
"You are so drunk oh my God. What did you drink?"
"I onnly had ONE shot! That'ss it."
"Honestly Rowoon, I didn't even see him drink anything. He just came back from the bar like this. I'm really sorry."
"It's not your fault Hwiyoung, you're not his babysitter. My apartment is closer so I'll bring him to mine ok?"
"NOO! Wanna go hoome~"
"Chani listen to me, I'll bring you to my place and you can sleep it off there."
"B-But you're not hoome thoough! Home! Hwi let'ss gooo."
Rowoon caught him as he tried to stand up and the younger immediately turned into a floppy noodle in his arms. Hwiyoung suggested calling a cab and just taking him back to their apartment. Even while drunk Chani was extremely stubborn and refused any attempts at reason. It took a while, but eventually, they got him into his own bed. Rowoon looked stressed about his condition and wanted to stay, but Chani shook his head so violently at the suggestion that he agreed to leave just to prevent him from hurting himself. Hwiyoung promised he would look after him, and Rowoon whispered that he would be back in the morning with hangover soup. Thanking him again, Hwiyoung waved goodbye before turning his attention to his roommate who was out for the count.
Dawon was well known on the campus thanks to his bi-weekly radio show about university life. Usually, he invited exceptional students to talk about their achievements and their recommendations for doing well and keeping a balanced uni life. Sometimes he even had lecturers as guests before exam season to give hints and tips for studying. Today though, he was desperate. Twenty minutes before the show went on air his guest bailed on him, leaving him trawling through social media and begging any of his classmates to come on air. Eventually, he managed to get a hold of someone who would be willing to sit and talk with him for an hour - for the low price of bringing him out for barbeque afterwards. Chani arrived in the studio with two minutes until they went live and was unceremoniously pushed into a chair and had headphones shoved over his ears. Dawon breathed a sigh of relief and launched into the show right on time.
"To be SENSATION! This is DJ Dawon and you're listening to the best radio station on campus, SF9. Today we were supposed to be bringing you stories from a certain law student who has grabbed lots of attention thanks to his performance in the recent showcase; unfortunately, he was unable to make it. Don't be too disappointed though, because I have someone even better! Why don't you greet the listeners?"
"Hello everyone, my name is Chani."
"That was very boring. Try again, and this time why don't you properly introduce yourself? Pretend it's a blind date and you have to make a good first impression."
"Ok - My name is Chani, I'm a final year student majoring in macroeconomics and minoring in international business. In my spare time, I love to dance and act, and I make a mean cup of instant ramen."
"Much better! My producers are telling me that we had to bring up the bass balance on your mic so you could be heard clearly through the radio, it's funny how such a deep voice can come from someone with such a cute baby face."
Chani and Dawon easily fell into a mode of bickering and making sly digs at one another. They had been friends for three years and both were well capable of handling each other's insults. It made for fun listening and after the first half hour passed they took a music break to read the comments on the live platform. They were all in awe of the pairs easy-going nature and chemistry, some even asking if Chani could be a more regular guest on the show. Once the song break ended they jumped straight back into it.
"You were just listening to an amazing new release from N.Flying called How R U Today. Can you believe they started out right here on campus and now they're preparing for a world tour? Incredible! What did you think Chani?"
"I really like it, when it came out last week I had it on repeat all day. I remember seeing Hweseung performing at the showcase when I was in my first year, he has only gotten better."
"That is very true. So now we move onto the second half of our show where we get to interact with some of our listeners. We were reading your comments during the break and a lot of you love Chani! I would be jealous except I know that you guys love me more."
"OKAY! So we're going to take three callers to chat about some of their student life problems. You each get two minutes to explain your situation and we'll do our best to give advice based on our own experience. So caller number one, let's hear it!"
The first two calls were from first-year students who were having trouble balancing their workload in university with part-time jobs and their social life. Chani and Dawon both talked about their own experiences and gave the best advice they could. Both of them seemed extremely grateful and it made Chani happy that he could be of some help. The final caller was a postgrad student, and Chani could have sworn he recognised that voice from somewhere.
"Alright caller number three, what's your concern?"
"Well, it's not so much a personal concern but it is an issue between two friends of mine. One of them is like the mom-friend in our group; always making sure we're on time for class, encouraging us to eat properly, buying us coffee when we really need it, and looking after us when we're sick. But they give special treatment to one person in particular because they like them as more than just a friend. The problem is, that this other person refuses to return any of their kind gestures and if they hadn't been friends for so long I'm sure it would seem extremely rude. We are all concerned for the two of them because we are pretty certain that the second has feelings for the first and just refuses to show it. What should we do?"
"Hmmm, that is a very tricky situation to handle. Does your second friend realise that the intentions are supposed to be romantic in nature? It might just seem to them that it's what they do for everyone."
"I guess we never thought of that. To us, it has always been extremely obvious that they show more affection to them, but maybe you're right and they don't actually think it's a romantic gesture. Most of the time they put on a strong outer appearance that they don't need the help from our first friend, but they'll accept help from the rest of us."
"And that's why you think your second friend has feelings for the first too? I really don't know what to say about this problem, I've never really experienced something like this before. What do you think Chani, any insight?"
"Well, I think I agree with Dawon when he said that maybe your second friend never realised the intentions behind everything was romantic. Maybe the reason they keep denying the attention is that they feel like they are being babied by the first, and they would rather be seen as an equal with a chance for romantic feelings? I think it would clear things up a lot between your friends if the first one was willing to confess to the second what their actual feelings and intentions were."
"That's a great insight Chani, I knew it was a good idea to bring you on this show! What do you think caller three, does this help with your problem?"
"Actually it does, that would explain a lot. Thank you DJ Dawon, and Chani of course. We really appreciate your help."
"No problem caller three, I hope that your friends can resolve their issue. Thanks for tuning in to SF9 radio, and good luck with your studies!"
They finished off the broadcast easily after that, taking some listener suggestions for their final songs. Closing off with Dawon's signature screech, the show ended. The producer thanked Chani for filling in on such short notice and praised how well they both worked together. When they left the studio Dawon asked him where he wanted to get barbeque for his payment, but Chani said he had other things he needed to do that evening and they could do it another time. The other agreed happily, and after thanking him once more they parted ways and Chani headed back to his apartment. He had finally placed where he knew the third caller's voice from and decided that he was going to take matters into his own hands.
There was no one there when he arrived home and he took the opportunity to talk to himself out loud to put all his thoughts into perspective. After showering quickly and changing his clothes, he left again and made his way to where he knew Rowoon would be at this time. The coffee shop was empty, and so he decided to put his plan into action straight away. There was a new girl working at the till, but that didn't matter. He ordered his usual double shot americano and paid for a tall mocha with extra chocolate. He took his coffee and sat in the seat opposite the one Rowoon usually sat in and waited. This was going to be the start of a long journey.
At two pm on the button, Rowoon walked in and headed straight to the counter to order his coffee. He never even turned to look at the table until the girl behind the till refused his payment and pointed to Chani sitting down at the table. Rowoon was visibly confused but thanked her anyway before making his way over to sit with Chani. He didn't say a word, obviously waiting for the younger to explain the sudden change in routine.
"I got the coffee right, didn't I?"
"You did, thank you Chani."
"It's no problem. I just - I wanted to pay you back for all the times you got mine."
"You never let me get yours, you always give me the money somehow."
"Then it's in return for all the times you attempted to get mine, even though I kept refusing."
"Alright. I'll make sure to pay you back then."
"No! No, you don't have to pay me back for this. I wanted to get your coffee, for a change."
"Well, thank you very much."
Rowoon smiled brightly at him and Chani returned a small one of his own. They sat and chatted about regular things, how Rowoon was getting on in his new job and how Chani was handling his final year assignments. Chani told him about doing the radio show with Dawon which made the older laugh, and in return, he spoke about the new intern who on her first day managed to get invited to the bosses black-tie gala at the end of the month. It was nice just talking together, and when it was time to leave they walked out together. They said their goodbyes and went separate ways, but Chani hoped that this could be where things began to finally change. All it was going to take was for him to start returning the affections, one by one.